Today is the first day of your New Year. No, I'm not looking at some distorted Mayan calendar. That ended along with the end of the world last year. I am looking at a calendar that I utilize with my clients every year, in preparation for making plans and resolutions for the new year.

Part of the failure of New Year's resolutions is we tie them to one single day (January 1) beginning at a very specific time (at midnight). There is a tremendous pressure to, literally, change your life overnight. This pressure is why resolutions and new year's plans are notoriously destined for failure. All success and failure hinges on a specific point in time. What if you don't feel well on January 1st (many of us don't)? What if there are unforeseen circumstances that delay the start of your plan? There is no wiggle room in the traditional resolution format.

It has been scientifically proven that it takes a minimum of 21 days to establish a habit (based on the number of days it took for people to get used to amputations and nose jobs), so I guide my clients through a four-week program (I give you seven extra days as a buffer to insure the habit is completely ingrained in your life). By January 1, the plan is solidly in place, debugged, adjusted and fully realized at a time when others are just starting with a list of resolutions.

There is a method I put my clients through.

Week 1 (Always Dec 3 - Dec 10) - Formulation of the plan, resolution or life change. Yes, you have a week. The more complete and detailed the strategy, the better chance of success. I use meditation, vision boards, writing post dated letters to yourself and a lot of creative digging to get the clearest, most creative image of what the change will look like.

Week 2 (Always Dec 10 - Dec 17) - Test run the plan. That means join that gym, go on that diet (before the Christmas parties? - trust me, get through the most tempting season and you will have no problems the rest of the year), start that new business policy (it's usually an excellent time of year to do this, unless you are in retail) or start that new budget (can avoid overspending during the holiday period).

Week 3 (Always Dec 17 - 24) - Celebrate the week's successes and make adjustment to elements that didn't work. This is your chance to polish and fine tune your vision. The typical New Year's resolution is an "all or nothing" situation. There isn't a time to Beta test it. There is a subconscious "pass-fail" atmosphere that kills the momentum and motivation if we cheat on the diet or miss a day at the gym. This gives you a week to consider a different type of exercise or a different diet. Maybe exercising 5 days a week is not realistic. It's all right to implement a plan B (or C or D or E - you have a week to experiment).

Week 4 (Always Dec 25 - Dec 31) - A nice, quiet week to implement the new and improved vision. Even with the modifications, by January 1, your "resolution" is a habit. Rather than missing a day at the gym you have an opportunity to design a less strenuous or less frequent exercise regime involving fewer days each week or different types of exercise. Rather than cheating on your diet, you can decide to put in an "eat what you want" day. You are the designer and the manager of this new event in your life. Make it challenging, but obtainable. The only way to know what works for you is to live it for a week and then give yourself the freedom to tweak it.

Then at midnight on December 31, sing Auld Lang Syne and lift a glass on bubbly to toast your success, standing side by side with a crowd of people who are  dreading their resolutions that start in a few hours.

Happy holiday season!